Monday 20 October 2014

Liberian doctor who received experimental Ebola drug dies

Published 25/08/2014 | 17:10

Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia August 17, 2014.  To try to control the Ebola epidemic spreading through West Africa, Liberia has quarantined remote villages at the epicentre of the virus, evoking the "plague villages" of medieval Europe that were shut off from the outside world. REUTERS/2Tango (LIBERIA - Tags: POLITICS HEALTH DISASTER MILITARY)
Health workers wearing protective clothing prepare to carry an abandoned dead body presenting with Ebola symptoms at Duwala market in Monrovia August 17, 2014. REUTERS/2Tango

A Liberian doctor who was among three Africans to receive an experimental Ebola drug has died, the country's information minister says.

It comes as a top UN delegation promised more help for countries battling the virulent disease during a visit to Sierra Leone.

Dr Abraham Borbor, the deputy chief medical doctor at Liberia's largest hospital, had received the untested drug ZMapp, after it was given to two Americans.

After receiving medical care in the US, the Americans survived the virus. A Spanish missionary priest infected with Ebola also received the treatment but died.

There has been no update given on the two other Liberians who took the last known available doses of ZMapp.

Dr Borbor "was showing signs of improvement but... he took a turn for the worse" and died yesterday, Information Minister Lewis Brown said.

Ebola has killed more than 1,400 people across West Africa in the countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. A separate Ebola outbreak emerged over the weekend in Congo, though experts say it is not related to the West African epidemic.

More international help is badly needed, said Dr David Nabarro, who is coordinating the UN's response to the Ebola crisis.

"The effort to defeat the Ebola disease is not a battle but a war that requires everybody to work together and effectively, and it is not easy to make a judgment as to whether we are winning the war or losing it," he said.

There is no proven vaccine or cure for the disease that can cause a grisly death with bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears. The virus can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the sick or from touching victims' bodies, leaving doctors and other health care workers most vulnerable to contracting it.

Only six people in the world are known to have received ZMapp. The small supply is now said to be exhausted and it is expected to be months before more can be produced by its US maker.

Health experts caution that the drug had never been tested in humans and it is unclear whether it works. They note there is a huge gap between the treatment the two Americans got at an Atlanta hospital, where five infectious disease experts and 21 nurses provided rigorous care, and that available in West Africa, where even basics such as sterile fluids can be in short supply.

It also probably helped that the two Americans were considered healthy and well-nourished before they were infected and received prompt care, experts say.

The World Health Organisation is also in the process of trying to evacuate a Senegalese doctor who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, said Assistant Director General Dr Keiji Fukada.

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